London to Brighton 2007

54 miles on a fold-up bike

The 2007 London to Brighton bike ride was to be an unusual event for me, my ride being a 3-speed folding bike more suited to a brief trip to and from the local railway station. I was doing the ride with my friend Darren again who was riding a retro Breezer mountain bike fitted with slicks and a dual chain-ring setup with gearing adapted for road use. As the ride approached I found myself wondering if it was really a good idea to be doing it on the folder. I had once done 38 miles on the bike about a year previously, but that was very unusual. The bike is mainly used to get around the paddock at motorsport events, covering just a few miles in a day!

Our start time was 7am, thirty minutes earlier than in 2006 which , we hoped, would give us a clearer run down to the coast. No such luck! The roads were far more congested near the start and our driver had to drp us off half a mile from the Clapham Common as there was so much traffic. We finally got away at 7.40 and headed off through the streets of London. Soon after the start there was a huge hold-up which saw loads of cyclists, us included, taking to the grass of a local park to skirt around the blockage. Things remained very busy in London and when we reached the first proper hill at Chipstead Rugby Club the congestion was even worse than our later start in 2006! There was no option but to walk the entire length of the hill - nobody was able to ride.

We were riding a bit harder than in 2006 and making quite swift progress. Around the halfway point the skies started to blacken and then it started raining. It wasn't cold but it was still fairly unpleasant due to the constant spray from other bikes! The upright riding position, and the instability when riding out of the saddle, meant that I was seated most of the time yet the old Squadra HDP saddle, a Tour riders favourite from the early '90s, was superbly comfortable!

As we approached Ditchling Beacon the usual silence descended on the chattering masses and the pace slowed a bit, everybody thinking about what lay ahead and saving their energy for the climb. It is at this point that, whoever I have ridden with, there is always a bit of a race up the Beacon. Realising that I might be able to complete the ride faster on the folding bike than I had on my road bike the year before, I set off as hard as I could. Climbing the Beacon was quite amusing. Having been in training for a cycling trip to the French Alps in July I was probably fitter than I have been in my entire life. I flew up the Beacon, being passed by nobody, and passing loads of riders on carbon bikes equipped with Dura Ace components! The previous year I had cycled up the Beacon faster than Darren, but he had caught me on the way in to Brighton. This wasn't going to happen this year and I went hard the rest of the way to Madeira Drive. Going down in to Brighton I managed to hit nearly 45mph, a bit slower than previous years on my road bike, but quite fast enough on this unstable machine.  I intially thought this was due to the upright riding position but there was a strong headwind and Darren only managed a similar speed (he reached 51mph last year on the same bike).  I reached the finish with a time less than a minute slower than on my titanium framed racer the year before! Darren came in 7 minutes behind me and we set off to get some well-deserved fish and chips and a cup of coffee.

Darren had been carrying a GPS system with him and he later downloaded the data and converted it to a Google Earth file which I have overlaid on the this map here. Using the controls you can zoom in and check out the exact route for the ride. Neat stuff!

A few stats from my computer:

Distance: 53.8 miles
Average speed: 15.0mph
Maximum speed: 44.8mph
Time: 3h 35m riding, 3h 44m inc stops and traffic lights etc
Average heart rate: 145bpm
Maximum heart rate: 179bpm
Climbing: 2655ft
Energy expenditure: 2517kcal